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The Because We Can Tour brings Bon Jovi, one of New Jersey’s most heralded bands, back to central Arkansas for the first time in two decades, when the group headlined at Barton Coliseum.

What could have been a thrilling return to those days of yore, however, has been marred by band discord and health issues in recent months.

Fans have been divided over the impact on the band of losing a founding member, guitarist Richie Sambora, co-writer of many of the band’s hits. Sambora left the band in April, but it was reported then that it was only for a segment of the tour.Hollywood Reporter deemed it “what seems to be the messiest divorce in rock.”

Bon Jovi was formed in 1983 by Jon Bon Jovi (born John Francis Bongiovi Jr.), Sambora, Tico Torres, keyboardist David Bryan and bassist Alec John Such, who was fired in 1994, replaced by Hugh McDonald.

In late August, confirmation came that Sambora had left the band. The band cited “personal issues,” but reports surfaced that he was fired over money matters. (Pollstar, an industry source, reported he had been making $2 million a month, plus 20 percent of the profits from each show; replacement guitarist Philip “Phil X” Xenidis is being paid $10,000 a month.)

Phil X disputes the report, saying, “I wouldn’t even leave my house for that salary.”

Phil X has recorded with two groups, Powder and The Drills, and is known for his session work. He filled in for Sambora in 2011 when Sambora went into a rehabilitation program, and has played with Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne, Tommy Lee, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper and Daughtry. The Canadian-born Phil X had been summoned in April to join the Bon Jovi tour in Calgary, Alberta, 15 hours before the show.

Meanwhile, the band was forced to cancel a September show in Mexico City when drummer Torres had to be rushed to a hospital for an emergency appendectomy. He has since recovered and rejoined the tour.

Other controversies have plagued the tour, with a show at the New York State Fair canceled so the band could instead perform at a fundraiser for the New York governor. Fans in the central part of the state were irate at the snub and took to message boards to express their fury at the band.

The group released its 12th studio album, What About Now, on March 12, and began its 2013 touring in February in Washington with dates scheduled in North America, Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America.

Bon Jovi 7:30 p.m. Friday, Verizon Arena, East Broadway and Interstate 30, North Little Rock Tickets: $34-$159.50 (800) 745-3000

Weekend, Pages 34 on 10/17/2013

Print Headline: Drama aside, Bon Jovi back

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